10/29/08

Zucchini muffins and cake

Last night I was studying at the library, but rather than paying attention to algebra review for the GRE, I was thinking about food. I decided to make zucchini bread because I wanted a calming experience of simple baking and I also had 4 zucchinis in the refrigerator.

I Google-d, and found this recipe on AllRecipes. Of course, I had to make a few changes. Here's my recipe for Zucchini Muffins With Walnuts and Cranberries.

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup cranberries

Directions:
1) Preheat the oven to 325F.
2) In a bowl whisk the eggs. Add in the oil and sugar.
3) Add zucchini, vanila, nuts and cranberries to the egg/oil/sugar mixture.
4) In a separate bowl, combine the rest of te ingredients.
5) Add the dry ingredients to the wet; mix well and pour into 10 lined muffin cups.
6) Pour the rest of the mixture into a small loaf pan or a small round oil-sprayed cake pan.
7) Bake for 30 minutes (for the muffins) to 45 minutes (for the cake).

Thoughts: I think I cut out too much of the sugar. Maybe 1.5 cups would have been better. And I might have overcooked the muffins slightly, but still the result is tasty. Adding citrus zest would have been great too.

It's 10 pm....what's for lunch for tomorrow?

Last night I came home, ate dinner very quickly and went to the library to study for two hours for the GRE. When I came home I wanted to do something chill and relaxing: why not bake? I had a few zucchinis and decided to bake zucchini bread muffins (will post those tomorrow).

By the time I was done with the muffins, it was 10 pm and I had nothing to take to work for lunch. With a few zucchinis left, I decided to make a quick Orzo With Sauteed Zucchinis, Garlic, Peas and Tomatoes.

Ingredients

1 cup orzo
olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 zucchinis, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tomato, cubed
fresh thyme
red pepper flakes
1 cup frozen peas
shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

1. Cook orzo in salted water, adding frozen peas in the last 2 minutes of the cooking process.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a separate skillet, add garlic, allowing it to cook for a few minutes. Add zucchini and saute for 4-6 minutes.
3. Season zucchini with salt and pepper, add fresh thyme and red pepper flakes, and add tomatoes in the last minute.
4. Drain orzo and peas and add to the vegetables mixture.
5. Top with mozzarella.

Note: I haven't actually tasted the dish yet, but will have it for lunch today. It smelled great though!

Daring Bakers: Pizza Dough!

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was to make your own pizza dough. I was very excited, but a bit nervous. I was looking forward to coming up with different topping ideas, but was apprehensive about the requirement to toss the pizza dough.

This past Saturday I started on the first step of the dough making process, and let it refrigerate over night. Then on Sunday I stretched the dough (see the picture below), and made two pizzas. Anna made the third, and she'll eventually post the results on her blog.

My first pizza was inspired by a slice of pizza I had last year in San Francisco: Arugula pizza with fresh corn, cherry tomatoes and shredded mozarella.

Step 1: Microplane a few garlic cloves and mix with oil. Cover the stretched pizza dough with garlic/oil mixture, and lightly sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.


Step 2: Add arugula (make sure you wash it very well and get rid of all the extra liquid; you can also use spinach if you want)

Step 3: Add fresh corn, cherry tomatoes, and top with more shredded mozzarella. Remember to season tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Step 4: Bake the pizza at a preheated 500F degree oven for about 10 minutes. I baked mine on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. The final results are below: I was very happy! Jenn, who came over for the feast, said her mouth was very happy :)

The second pizza was inspired by my Plum, Gorgonzola, Red Onion and Pine Nuts Pizza. Unfortunately, turns out plums are out of season, so I had to make a few substitutions. Here are the pictures for Granny Smith Apple, Red Onions, Gorgonzola and Walnuts Pizza.

Step 1: Top the freshly made pizza dough with red onions, which were slowly cooked in oil and then "spiked up" with balsamic vinegar.

Step 2: Add thinly sliced Granny Smith Apples, Gorgonzola and toasted walnuts on top of the onions.

Step 3: Bake the pizza for about 10 min at 500F degrees. Let set slightly before cutting. Enjoy!

I wonder what is in store for the next challenge....

10/28/08

Roasted Carrots

Let's say you have 2 pounds of carrots and your sister is preheating the oven to roast sweet potatoes. Oh, and you are also now paying for electricity separately (before it was included in the rent)...what shall you do? Why, roast those carrots of course!

I did not want to just have plain roasted carrots, so decided to add a few spices. I peeled and chunked the carrots, then put them in a big bowl and drizzled with olive oil. Then went in the spices: ground cumin, ground mustard, chili powder, curry powder, and of course some kosher salt.

I roasted the carrots at 400 for about 45 minutes (it all depends on how soft you want them and on the size of the chunks). I thought the outcome was rather nice, but Anna did not like the powdery coating. To each their own! (P.S. her roasted sweet potatoes turned out great!)

10/27/08

Meet my new dishes

Meet my new dishes: I've purchased them yesterday at Sur La Table and cannot wait to add them to my photo props and to of course eat from them :) Alas, one of the red bowls is slightly chipped; I'll see if I'll be able to exchange it.

The pretty towel in the background is from Jenny.

What to do with leftover challah?

Let's say you baked challah, but could not finish the entire loaf at once and did not want to make a challah French toast. Here's an idea that I learned at Sur La Table for leftover challah (all measurements are just approximations).

Ingredients
left over challah, cubed
4 eggs
2 cups whole milk
sugar & cinnamon to taste
2 tablespoons raisins
1 apple, cored and cubed

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Butter a baking pan.
3. Combine milk, eggs, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl.
4. Add cubed challah, apples, raisins, and mix well.
5. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for about an hour or until everything is cooked through and the top is browned and crisp. (You might want to keep the pan covered with aluminum foil for the first 30 minutes)

This is a really great dish for brunch** and holds well for breakfast the next day. I like it both cold and warm, and think it will be awesome topped with vanilla icecream.

**In fact, I brought it over to Wendy's on Sunday for girls' brunch.

Brownies with a twist

This past Saturday Anna and I went over to Stacey's for her kids' birthday party. It was a total blast! I wanted to bring something, but did not have a lot of time and decided that everyone loves brownies, and that it would be a good idea.

I bought a boxed brownie mix and decided to "spike it up" with fresh orange zest and dark chocolate chips. Following directions on the box, I simply added orange zest while mixing eggs/oil/water, and then once everything was completely mixed with the "flour" package, I folded in the chocolate chips.

Once the brownies were baked and cooled, I glazed the entire thing with a mix of confectionery sugar and milk. I think they turned out pretty well, if I say so myself.

Other variations that I've made in the past include adding nuts, Snickers bars, or all of the above. I've also heard someone suggesting adding dried cherries: something to try in the future.

10/23/08

A new award!

I'm so excited! Jo, from The Adventures of Kitchen Girl gave me This Blog is Rated E for Excellence Award! I'm truly thrilled!!! Thank you :)

10/21/08

Perfect dinner for two Jewish girls: PORK :)

Tonight for dinner I made pork tenderloin marinated in mustard, thyme and garlic and roasted with red onions. Yes, I don't keep Kosher :)

Ingredients
10 branches of thyme, leaves removed
2 garlic cloves, microplane-d
2 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pork tenderloin
2 red onions, cut in half and sliced thickly

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425F.

2. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Add pork tenderloin, cover and marinade for several hours.


3. Heat an oven-proof pan, add a bit of oil. Add the pork tenderloin to the pan and sear it for a few minutes on all 4 "sides." Add the onions to the pan while searing the pork.

4. Once the pork is seared, put it in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 135 (this is according to Anna. I had the pork in the oven till the temperature was 150, and it still was pink and juicy!).

5. Let the pork rest for about 10 minutes before cutting, and serve with roasted root vegetables.

P.S. have I mentioned how much I hate that it gets dark at 6 pm??? It makes it so hard to take nice pictures...the last one turned out horrendous.

Russian Tuna Salad

Yesterday I seriously felt like I was going to pass out/faint on the way home from work. I came home, slept for an hour, and still felt weak....alas, had to stay at home instead of going dancing. You know if I skipped dancing it means I really wasn't feeling well :(

Today I decided to stay home, get some rest in hope that I'll start feeling better. Not sure how well it worked, but it did give me a chance to make something for lunch that I've been meaning to make for a while: Russian Tuna Salad.

Russian Tuna Salad

Ingredients
1 can of tuna, drained
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled, chopped
1 cup cooked white rice
1/4 small red onion, finely chopped
mayonnaise, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
2. Refrigerate for at least 3o minutes before serving.
3. Feel free to add pickles, celery, cucumbers, dill, parsley or any other ingredients. The key to this salad is the combination of rice, tuna, eggs and mayo.

10/19/08

Roasted Vegetables

Over the weekend I was testing a few more recipes for Robyn with Anna's help. One of them is absolutely perfect for any fall dinner, especially Thanksgiving meal.

Here, the combination of shallots, carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes is ready to go into a hot oven.

And here is the final product: delicious!

What do the CIA graduates eat?

This past Friday, Anna has graduated from the CIA. My parents and I went to her graduation and joined all the other graduates and their friends/family for lunch. Here's what was on the menu:

Arugula and Frisee Salad with Prosciutto, Pumpkin Seeds, Dried Figs, and Shaved Parmigiano-Regiano
Osso Buco with Gremolata, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Roasted Root Vegetables
Melting Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce
The food was quite delicious, especially the osso buco. I was a bit disappointed the dessert did not have anything chocolat-y, but you can't have it all :)
Anna will be staying with me for a while, so I'll see what wonders she'll be making for dinner!

10/15/08

Dinner for parents: Italian Sausage/Zucchini/Potatoes/Onion Bake

When I came home tonight after work, my parents were still sightseeing in DC. I decided to chill out and cook dinner. This dish is based on a recipe I learned from Jenny, a woman Anna and I used to babysit for in high school (well, we babysat her son).

Italian Sausage, Zucchini, Potatoes and Onion Bake

Ingredients
16 ounces Italian Sausage
3 big yellow potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (I used Cindy's mandoline)
3 green zucchini, thinly sliced
1 white onion, thinly sliced
1 can mushroom soup, mixed with the same amount of hot water
salt & pepper
paprika

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. In a skillet cook Italian sausage.
3. In a pie pan layer Italian sausage, potatoes, onions, zucchini, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.

4. Top with another layer of potatoes, and pour mushroom soup and water mixture over the entire dish; sprinkle with paprika. (I had enough ingredients to make a round dish and a square dish. If you have a tall baking dish, you can make several layers of sausage and vegetables...it's up to you).

5. Bake the dish for about an hour or until the potatoes are cooked all the way through! Let the dish set for about 10 minutes before digging in.

Thoughts: The final result wasn't quite as I remember the dish tasting years ago. I think maybe it would have been better to use more mushroom soup and less water. You can also add cheese if you want. But my parents liked it, so I'm pretty happy!

My dad's borscht & interview

My parents are visiting from Seattle. They flew to DC, and then tomorrow we are taking Amtrak to Hyde Park for Anna's graduation from CIA (no, not the CIA you are thinking of...the one related to cooking!). Yesterday, before doing any sightseeing, my dad went to the grocery store and made a big pot of his famous borscht. I thought I'd take a picture of it and also ask him a few questions. [My dad is a man of few words; thus, this is quite a short interview :) ]

Q: When was the first time you made borscht?
A: When I was a college student (about 20 y.o.)

Q: Did you use a recipe?
A: No. I just used my intuition.

Q: How did you learn to cook?
A: I watched my mom and grandmother as they cooked when I was young.

Q: When did you know you made the best borscht?
A: When my mother-in-law said it was better than my wife's.

Q: Do you ever follow the same recipe twice?
A: No.

Q: What are the necessary ingredients?
A: Beets, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onion, tomato paste, garlic, water, salt & pepper, bay leaf.

Q: What are optional ingredients?
A: Beef broth, zucchini, red peppers, celery, broccoli stems (not the crowns).

Q: What do you like to serve with borscht?
A: Chopped parsley, mayonnaise or sourcream, scallions, or fresh dill.

10/13/08

Invigorating Salad

A while ago I made a Beet, Carrot and Ginger Salad from Mark Bittman's cookbook. That was the first time I tried raw beets: and I liked it. Somehow, I haven't had raw beets since then...until today that is.

Here's a recipe I tested for Robyn: raw beets, carrots and cabbage salad with Asian-inspired vinaigrette and sesame seeds. I feel invigorated already :)

10/12/08

What's for dinner? Salmon

What a coincidence: just this past Friday at lunch with Wendy and Amy I realized I haven't had salmon in quite a while (not counting sushi). And then, just today, I received a salmon recipe to test for Robyn: perfect timing.

Poached salmon with yogurt herb sauce. Delicious! (Cannot reveal specific ingredients/measurements, but look for this recipe in the January issue of Diabetes Forecast).